Nomad is a big name in Tanzanian walking safaris thanks to its unrivalled park distribution. As well having camps in the big name destinations of the northern circuit – the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangire – Nomad also has the southern circuit covered with seasonal camps in Nyerere, Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale Mountains. There’s also one more less familiar name on the list and that’s Ugalla.
Ugalla Game Reserve is on the Ugalla River in western Tanzania, and was gazetted as a reserve as recently as 2019. The river is like a lesser known Luangwa – a broad and sluggish waterway that meanders between ancient oxbow lakes before ending in swamplands that drain into Lake Tanganika. It’s the only permanent source of water in the park for the wildlife that includes elephant, buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, and a wealth of bird species. Antelope fans will enjoy searching for roan, eland, oribi, topi and Lichtensteen’s hartebeest.
There are no permanent tourism facilities in Ugalla, just designated camp sites. In the 2023 season, Nomad decided to invest in the new Expeditionary Walking Camp and picked an area in western Ugalla as one of its locations, and the camp is offered there in the ideal walking season of August to October. It’s dry and hot this time of year, but walks take place in the cool air of dawn, or in late afternoon. The park has a good walking terrain, and as well as its diverse mammal population is also known for its wetland birds including Shoebill storks, wattled cranes and pygmy geese. It’s not an easy place to reach, and Nomad guests are brought in by air charter to Ugalla Airstrip.
All of the Nomad camps and lodges have walking guides on staff but Nomad Expeditionary Camp is the first dedicated trails camp. The camp is mobile in two senses. It moves between the parks – Ugalla, Serengeti, and Ruaha – and also moves at least once during a particular guest booking, which is normally three nights. In the Serengeti, it shifts with the seasonal migration, spending a couple of months in each sector. Now, in early February, it is in the Ngare Nanyuki area of the eastern Serengeti and by the end of February will shift to the Gol Mountains and Salei Plains. Then from May-June the Expeditionary Camp will be relocated to the Mbalageti Western Corridor in western Serengeti. From July to October, it is offered in on southern sections of the Ruaha river, overlapping with Ugalla thanks to the addition of a second camp set for the 2024 season. Western Ugalla operates the camp from August to October.
The Expeditionary Camp is designed to be a “back to basics” experience for those that wish to dial back the distractions of fixed lodges and focus on the wilderness experience. No pools, no WiFi, no spas, and no need for a fitness centre. It’s still pretty comfortable, and features large A-frame tents with cot beds and cotton linen. There are two bathroom units with bucket showers and short drop toilets. The camp caters to a maximum of six guests and three tents and the cost starts at $1400 per person per night. As always, walk intensity is tuned to the particular guests, with anything from 3-6 hours on foot daily. Nomad encourages guests to combine the camp with other Nomad properties depending on the season. Ugalla works well with Katavi and Mahale Mountains as they are on the same shared charter flight loop.
Images courtesy Nomad.